Extended Essay Note Cards

When it comes to writing a brilliant first draft of your Extended Essay, or any essay, I fully believe that a solid structure is one of the surest guarantees of success there is. It’s the skeleton of the essay that makes it into a fully formed being instead of a pile of jelly. And the best way to make sure you have a skeleton instead of just gelatine (is that a rhyme?) is to create a plan or outline.

We’ve talked about how to choose a topic, go about your research, and pin down a research question. So now we’re going to address how you can take all of that work and turn it into a concrete plan. It’s all about organising your ideas so that they are as clear as possible. After you’ve done this, writing the essay will be about simply filling in the gaps!

Preparing to construct your Extended Essay Outline

Know your destination

Although your research question should already suggest what you are aiming to achieve in the essay, your conclusion needs to take this a step further. It can’t just be the same as your introduction but in different words (as tempting as that option is!). Everything in your essay should take the reader on a journey to this conclusion. It should help progress your argument so that we get closer with every paragraph.

If you’re now realising that you don’t know your destination, take the time to figure this out before you start writing. The results of a Science experiment will make it pretty obvious, but even in more subjective subjects such as English, History and World Studies you need to decide what conclusion your research points towards.

My advice to you, if you simply aren’t sure, is to follow your instincts. Think about how your evidence has affected what you personally think about the topic. Chances are it will have convinced you of something. For a reminder of different types of essay conclusions, there are some useful summaries in this article.

Exercise 1: summarise your conclusion in one sentence. Even if it’s not exactly right, or if it doesn’t include everything you feel is important about your topic, compress it as much as you can into one core idea. If you can’t do this right away then set a timer for five minutes and start drafting sentences about what you ‘think’ your essay might conclude. At the end of the five minutes pick the one that you feel summarises it best.

Define your ideas

Take a moment to free your mind from all the details, facts, quotes and data. Go back to the essence of your essay, which is the argument you are trying to make. Without using your research to speak for itself, identify all the different ideas you want to include, and the things you want to say.

For example, you might have evidence that Virginia Woolf uses imagery of flowers frequently throughout Mrs Dalloway, but what does this actually mean in the context of your question? The idea behind it might relate more to her affinity with nature, or the parallels she draws between flowers and people.

Exercise 2: write down all the ideas you want to include in your essay. Don’t worry about an order yet. Focus instead of getting all of your ‘points’ written down somewhere. Not only is this likely to help your organise your thoughts, but it will also mean you can refer back to it later to make sure you haven’t forgotten one of your favourite ideas! This can take the form of a mind map, a list, a Word Doc. Do whatever feels easiest, because chances are this is what will help your ideas flow naturally.

Filter your evidence

I can 99% guarantee you that you won’t be able to use all the research you have done. A lot of it will be:

  1. Irrelevant to the question
  2. Repetition of what you already have
  3. Not quite right for your line of argument

THEREFORE it is important that you filter your evidence so that you only have the best examples and information.

Use your research question as your starting point and your conclusion sentence (the one you wrote earlier) as the end point. It is your job to make sure that every piece of research is part of a bridge between the two. Absolutely every quote, fact or piece of data that you include should actively answer your question. If it doesn’t, don’t include it.

Exercise 3: First, highlight the clearest, most informative research that you have gathered. Next, take all of these pieces of research, and write a short, one-sentence summary next to each one, describing how it relates to your question. Use your own words. You will hopefully start finding that they are backing up some of the points you know you want to include.

Constructing your Extended Essay Outline

There are different techniques you can use to structure an essay. Because the Extended Essay is much longer than what most of you will be used to, I strongly recommend using a particular technique or process to do this. Below are some examples, and you should do whatever works best for you.

The Bullet-Point Outline:

You know this one. It’s the most classic example of how to structure an essay and the one most of you have probably tried before. The trick with this one is to start small and expand outwards afterwards.

  • Summarise each paragraph into one line that defines the idea or sub-topic behind it.
  • Expand each paragraph summary by adding 2 extra bullet points:
    1. Evidence, data or a quote
    2. How the example relates to the idea you are trying to convey
  • Expand your paragraph bullet points by adding in other ideas or points that are directly relevant to the overall idea behind it

The Post-it Note Outline:

I’m defining this as anything that involves you breaking down your paragraphs into defined pieces. Post-it notes, cards, and scraps of paper are the most common examples. This option is brilliant if you struggle coming up with an order for your ideas straight away. Instead it lets you play around with all the different parts of your essay as you go, until you have put them in the best possible order.

If you like the idea of this process but can’t stand the idea of lots of physical pieces of paper, there are some apps that perform a similar function such as Gingko or Evernote.

The Spreadsheet Outline:

For the structure nuts among you. The beauty of this is that it lets you easily compare paragraphs in terms of length and content by breaking each one down into clear sections. You can choose how exactly you format it, but it might look like this:

As with the post-it version it is super easy to use this method to change the order of your paragraphs. You can also tailor the columns depending on what categories are most relevant to you. If you want to go a step further you can even colour code your sheet, for example according to 1st hand data or 2nd hand data, or close analysis and thematic analysis.

The key is to have a view of the bigger picture of your essay. How you go about it is up to you!

Read Part 5: How to Write It

August 30, 2017     Introductory Meeting during Junior Seminar / Research Skills Lab class

  • Introduction to the Extended Essay and Senior Project

Fall, 2017     Junior Seminar/Research Skills Lab class time devoted to:

  • Introduction to WSA Library EE Guide, and IB documents:
    • IB Assessment Criteria for the EE
    • Relevant EE Subject Guide(s), including the World Studies Guide
    • IB's ethical guidelines related to academic honesty, citing and referencing, and (if applicable to your subject and topic) research and fieldwork, and use of animals)
  • Introduction to EE assessment criteria
  • Research methods, referencing skills, literature review skills
  • Generating research questions

October 2-6, 2017     Individual check-in meetings with EE Coordinator

  • Scheduled during Junior Seminar class
  • Be prepared to answer these questions:
    • Have you chosen an IB subject area of research, or do you know the two subjects your would choose for a World Studies Extended Essay?   
    • What IB subject area do you see this research fitting in to?
    • What sparked your interest in this subject area?
    • What background reading have you done so far?
    • How are you planning on organizing your research, notes, ideas, etc. so that you'll be able to access them when you're ready to write?
    • Do you have a provisional research question that will fit in with your chosen subject?
    • What are the next steps in conducting your research?

November 28, 2017

DUE:  By 8:20 AM on 11/28/2017 to Susan Trower 

'Student Undertaking Contract' signed by both student and parent

DUE:  'Proposed Subject and Topic Form' signed by student; Include one or two proposals, each with:

EE subject, or WSEE theme and two IB subjects

Specific topic area or research question

Rationale for choosing this topic area

DUE:  Feasibility and Viability Report - one report for each EE proposal - each with:

5 - 10 sources

Correctly referenced in chosen citation style

Five of the sources must have at least two notes each; notes must include:

Summary of key points, bullet points of themes, ideas, research, etc.

Quotes as appropriate, page numbers, new references, paths of investigation, etc.

Headings with any information from the source that relates to the EE topic / research question

Summary of key points, bullet points of themes, ideas, research, etc.

Notes may be submitted using the Notecards feature in NoodleTools

Goal is to prove viability of proposed research question

December 14, 2017     Extended Essay supervisors assigned

January 16 - 25, 2018

Schedule appointment with supervisor and meet for first time (Initial Reflection Session)

As preparation for their first advisory session, students should be prepared to discuss the following:

  1. Criteria:  you should go over the subject-specific assessment criteria 
  2. Research question: work with your supervisor to narrow your topic/question down to a manageable scope (capable of being covered in 4,000 words); investigate the viability of your topic; if you have a wildly interesting but impractical question:  be prepared to heed the advice of your supervisor; know that it's up to you, and your supervisor will not prescribe or create a research question for you
  3. Exemplars:  ask for exemplars in your chosen subject from the EE coordinator or your supervisor.
  4. Library:  Be sure to check with the WSA Librarian for help in getting access to publications or online journals that would apply to your topic.
  5. Structure: Work with your supervisor to devise a plan as t how your research question could be structured or go to the session with a proposed structure you have in mind for review (chapter headings, for instance.)  MindMap® of ideas, flow charts, and other models could prove useful here to help you visualize your structure at this early stage.
  6. Time Management: If you are finding it difficult to plan your time due to other assessment pressures or extra-curricular demands, then it may be useful to speak to your supervisor with regards to creating a structured research timeline or more specific timetable to help you to see exactly what is required and when.

January 29, 2018

DUE:   'Research Readiness Form' to Susan Trower, signed by both student and supervisor

  • Turned in by 3:30 PM on 1/29/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

DUE:   First reflection (150-175 words) to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 1/29/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points

February - March, 2018     Meet with supervisor at least two more times (10-20 minute sessions)

  • Things to be prepared to discuss with your supervisor:
    • Passivity - If you haven't done as much as you had hoped for since your first meeting, discuss the reasons and causes for this with your supervisor and ways to overcome or avoid this in future sessions.
    • Reading - Discuss your reading and/or research.  What have you found out?  Any surprises? Any useful lines of thought or approaches to the question?
    • Notes - Do you have a workable note-taking system in place?
    • Essay plan - Go over how to best structure your essay.
    • Exemplars - Try marking up a pre-existing essay with the assessment criteria, then go over this with your supervisor.  This will allow you to write with the assessment criteria firmly in mind.
    • Time-management - Be prepared to adjust your normal routines to accommodate any delays or issues with your EE so far. Sticking to deadlines will ensure you get this done!
    • Writing - Commit to getting started on your writing!
    • Research question - Tweaking  at this point is OK, but not big changes to your topic area or question.
  • Continue to use your RRS (Researcher's reflection space) to record reflections on what you are reading, writing and thinking

April 9-13, 2018   Meet with supervisor to discuss:

  • Completion of planned reading and/or research (Is further reading and/or research needed?)
  • Challenges encountered in EE process
  • EE presentation to Supervisors and Class of 2020 on May 1

April 16, 2018

DUE:   'Writing Readiness Form' to Susan Trower, signed by both student and supervisor, by 3:30 PM on 4/16/2018

  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

May 1, 2018

Extended Essay Presentations to Supervisors and Class of 2020

  • PowerPoint presentation, 8-10 slides, 5 minutes
  • Presentation of your most up-to-date findings and research
  • Scheduled during Advocacy and All School meeting time in two groups; one in the Conference Room and one in Parke 2
  • Includes:
    • Subject and research question
    • Background (what your EE is about)
    • Research conducted so far
    • Planned research for the summer
    • Working outline of the final contents page
    • Detailed summary of one or two chapters or sections
    • Problems encountered / solutions found
    • Bibliography, accurately referenced with chosen citation style
  • Worth 100 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • No presentation = 0 points

May 1, 2018

DUE: Student brings signed 'Extended Essay Progress Check Form' to be completed by supervisor after the presentation.

  • Worth 50 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late form = 0 points

June 1, 2018

DUE: 5 pages of writing due to Supervisor and Susan Trower

  • Emailed document must arrive by 3:30 PM on 6/01/2018
  • Worth 100 points towards Spring Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points
  • Options:
    • 5 pages of 'Body' of paper, based on the essay outline presented to EE Supervisors and the Class of 2020 on May 1, OR
    • 5 pages of writing total, comprised of paragraphs analyzing the information from at least 5 of the primary and/or secondary sources to be used for the paper.  For this approach, Eric Bright's worksheets for analysis of historical primary and secondary sources can be used to help with deciding how to structure the writing.

June 4 - 7, 2018     Meet with Supervisor to discuss:

  • Quality of preliminary writing submitted on June 1
  • EE assessment criteria (Students would benefit from reading Chapter 7. Assessment [maximizing marks], in Oxford Extended Essay Course Companion, by Kosta Lekanides, ISBN 9780198377764, before this meeting)
  • Summer plans for completing writing on the EE

June - August, 2018     Students write first draft of their Extended Essay

Summer Break

September 4, 2018

DUE: First 10 pages of draft due to Supervisor and Susan Trower

  • Emailed document must arrive by 3:30 PM on 9/4/2018
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

September 10-14, 2018


Meeting with Supervisor regarding quality of preliminary draft (no editing)

As preparation for the interim reflection session, students should have:

  1. attempted to refine a focused and appropriate research question
  2. significantly deepened their research and recorded pertinent evidence, information or data in the Researcher’s reflection space
  3. reviewed and consolidated the methodologies they are using
  4. formulated arguments based on the evidence that they have collected
  5. added to the working bibliography for their research.

September 17, 2018

DUE:   Interim reflection (150-175 words) due to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 9/17/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points

October 22, 2018

DUE: Complete draft due to Susan Trower by 3:30 PM

  • Two (2) printed copies and an emailed digital copy required by 3:30 PM on 10/22/2018
  • Draft must conform to IB Formal Presentation Guidelines as provided to Candidate
    • Required components: Title Page, Table of Contents, Introduction, Body of Paper, Conclusion, Works Cited (NOTE: do NOT include an Abstract)
    • Required Format: Arial font, 12 point font size, double-spaced text, numbered pages, indented paragraphs, appropriate margins (1" on all sides is acceptable)
    • Acceptable file type: DOC or DOCX
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

Week of October 29 - November 2, 2018

Mandatory draft (revision) conference with supervisor

  • Scheduled by student in advance at discretion of Supervisor     
  • Set aside minimum of one hour for meeting

December 3, 2018

FINAL COPY DUE to Susan Trower by 3:30 PM

  • Emailed digital copy required by 3:30 PM on 12/3/2018
  • Final copy must conform to IB Formal Presentation Guidelines as provided to Candidate (see note above)
  • Worth 100 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late paper = 0 points

December 3-7, 2018


Final session with supervisor, scheduled by student in advance at discretion of Supervisor

Students should bring the following to this session:

  • extracts from their Researcher's Reflection Space (RRS) that illustrate how they have grown as learners through the process of reflection
  • a willingness to share their personal experience and to discuss the skills and development of conceptual understandings that they have acquired through the completion of the extended essay.

December 10, 2018

DUE:   Final reflection (150-175 words) due to Susan Trower via email

  • Emailed reflection must arrive by 3:30 PM on 12/10/2018
  • Worth 50 points towards Fall Semester EE grade
  • Late reflection = 0 points
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